Tag Archives: State of Decay 2

Since When Did We Become A Community Of Beta Testers?

So I actually started to write this article a couple of months back but it eventually fell into my already massive backlog. Then I read something on that there interwebs that irked me slightly and got me back into finishing this article. That thing that irked me was this…

SoD2 Post

But before I get into my problems with this seemingly innocent post and why I got annoyed by it. Back to the main thrust of this rant and my initial aim of the article. So I wanted to take a look at the past and present in terms of gaming and ask why is it that games these days are released with numerous bugs and glitches then the developers/publishers of said game(s) expect us to report the bugs for them to fix.

The Present

One of the most eagerly awaited games of 2017 was Red Dead Redemption II…of course in true Rockstar fashion – it was delayed…more than once. So now we won’t be getting our hands on the game until October this year instead, that’s a full twelve months of delay from its original “Fall 2017” date. I really have no problem with this is it proves that Rockstar really care about what they are doing and want to give us, the punter a damn good gaming experience by ensuring the game is as polished and perfect as it can be (despite the pre-order shenanigans). Now I’m not suggesting that once Red Dead Redemption II is finally in our hands that it’ll be 100% bug and glitch free (it won’t) but what I am saying is that the game will be polished to a pretty damn high standard.

Red Dead Redemption II Shadows

I suppose my point is that most developers don’t share the same mind set that Rockstar do. Other developers/publishers are more than happy to hastily force out a clearly under-cooked game with bugs and glitches everywhere (I’ll be getting you you Undead Labs/State of Decay 2 soon) then use the ‘safety net’ of the post-launch patch to attempt to fix the problems instead of delaying the game to work on it some more and fix the known issues.

The post-launch patch can become a bit of a joke at times, especially if its a day one patch. You get your hands on the game you’ve been looking forward to the last few months (twelve of them in Red Dead Redemption II‘s case), you thrust it into your console of choice and are hit with an update before you can even install the game. Its day one and needs fixing already?

This isn’t something we have to suffer in other forms of media is it? You don’t go to the cinema, ticket in hand for the big summer blockbuster. Pay a small fortune for some popcorn and a drink that’s 60% ice before settling yourself into a seat complete with a nice sticky floor your footwear adheres to – your eyes transfixed to the big screen. The film begins and as you watch, you notice that some of the effects are not complete or the green screen backgrounds have yet to be applied, etc. After watching the obviously unfinished product, you are not told to come back to the cinema in a few weeks when its finished to view it properly. No, you watch a film that had been completed on a technical level to perfection with faultless CGI…unless you just watched Justice League of course.

Superman

So why do we put up with a clearly unfinished product when it comes to gaming? Why are we expected to do the do the job of the quality assurance department that are paid to find and report bugs and glitches? Going back to my film analogy just for a second, they do have test screenings where an unfinished film is shown to a select group of the public to get feedback to help change the film and fix its possible problems. You know what the difference is? These test screenings are FREE and those who get to see the film are not expected to pay for the ‘privilege’ of helping to make the film better. With games, we pay full price for a product that is unfinished…and then asked to help identify and report on the issues, then have to wait while the problems are fixed. Again, we pay to do this. We spend out hard earned cash to do the job of the play-testers and QA department. Is that fair?

Games tend to go through multiple milestones before they’re released.

First Playable is when the game is in its infancy, but still features functional gameplay elements and assets. Its nowhere near a releasable game, but the basics are there and the game is shaping up to what it will eventually become.

Alpha is the next stage and by now, the game contains a lot of the assets that will be in the finished product. Its still very rough but the core gameplay in now in place and things can still be altered, added and even removed. But the coders tend to concentrate on polishing the codebase to ensure the game is stable.

Beta is pretty much the final hurdle. The game is 99% done and this stage is mainly used to work out the bugs and glitches. Some developers will invite the public to take part in Open Beta Testing where they can get direct feedback from the gamers themselves to iron out any last minute issues, kind of like the test screenings films have. But basically, this Beta stage is the final stretch before the game is released and used to iron out small creases.

Code Release is where all the bugs are supposedly fixed after being reported by the QA department and the game is weeks away from release.

Gold Master and that it. The game is ready for release. The final build of the game that is used for the mass production.

Game Designer.jpg

That’s the basics as game development is different for every developer. But that up there is pretty much the industry standard cycle for a game release and as you can see – they go through pretty extensive tests before being sold to the public…so why are games still being released with numerous bugs and glitches? Even more to the point, why are we expected to do the job of the QA department and report on the bugs that should’ve been picked up by the months and sometimes even years of pre-testing?

Post-launch patches are fucking annoying and yet they now seem to be an industry standard. We have now become a community of Beta testers. But there is a flip side to all of this. What if post-launch patches never existed, what if bugs and glitches never were fixed? Here is where I need to travel to the past of gaming…

The Past

Bugs and glitches are not new and have been around pretty much since gaming began. Only back then, they were hardly fixed and we just had to put up with them. I could list a few of the more infamous bugs that any gamer will recognise…and there’s a lot of them.  But I’m just going to highlight a handful of the more notorious ones.

Pac-Man Kill Screen

Yes it’s the infamous Pac-Man Kill Screen. This glitch appears if/when the player gets to level 256 of the arcade classic Pac-Man and its impossible to avoid and came about due to an error in the formula used in the programming, it was never fixed either. You get to level 256 and its game over no matter ho many lives you have left as the right side of the screen is totally glitched out making it impossible to complete. So well known this glitch is that another game was made from its infamy with Pac-Man 256. An endless runner game where you have to try to outrun the glitchy, corrupt graphics. Donkey Kong featured a similar glitch where if the player got the level twenty two, an error in the formula of the programming would only give you seven seconds to beat the level…which was impossible.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is one of my all time favorite games. I love the setting, the music, the characters and most importantly – the gameplay. Best GTA game ever! But this beaut of a game held a game breaking bug. It was during the mission called The Ice Cream Factory where you had to sell errrr , lets call it “ice cream” out of an ice cream truck, simple enough. But the first run copies of the game had a major bug where if you saved your game while on this mission, your save file would become corrupt and you’d find that you could no longer load your game – all of your progress was lost and all you could do was restart the game from the start. Now in fairness, the later releases of the game fixed this bug, but if you had one of the earlier copies? Well you were fucked.

GTA Vice City

Jet Set Willy is a game anyone who owned a home computer in the early/mid 80s would have had a copy of. It helped shape the platforming genre in gaming and was quintessentially British. But it also had numerous bugs and glitches, the most infamous being “The Attic Bug”. For those not in the know, this was a bug so bad it meant the game could not be completed. Publisher, Software Projects actually tried to pass the bug off as being intentional to make the game harder. Eventually they had to fess up after complaints and admit it was a problem so they issued some POKEs to rectify the problems. Don’t know what a POKE is/was? Well they were essentially adjustments to the basic programming which would fix bugs. Yes, we had post launch patches back then too and Jet Set Willy was one of the first examples of what is now a very common practice. Jet Set Willy also had the greatest gaming cover art ever, a bloke throwing up into a toilet after a heavy drinking session while still clutching a bottle of booze…

Jet Set Willy Cover.jpg

So to answer the question of this whole article – since when did we become a community of beta testers? Well the truth is that we have always been a community of beta testers. Games have always had bugs and glitches in them since the dawn of gaming and games have been updated with fixes to the problems for decades now. Of course there are differences between today’s gaming climate to thirty odd years ago.

Gaming is a much more acceptable pastime, back in the 80s, it was always seen as something more underground and niche. Today gaming is a bigger industry than Hollywood movies. More people play games today than they used to, so understandably we gamers have a bigger voice and influence. If a bug was spotted in a game in the early 80s, it would often just be ignored and we couldn’t really communicate our frustration over the bug. But now we have the interwebs where we can tell the people who made the games about a discovered bug instantly and directly.

Also back then, games were made by very small teams and sometimes by people flying solo as the games were much smaller. Today and games are huge productions with hundreds of people working on them providing rich and textured game worlds. A game would take a few weeks/months to make from scratch in the 80s, today they take years to develop. So spotting a bug back in the 80s was just shrugged off as we were more forgiving of a smaller team working on a game – of course they’re liable to miss and mess up something if you only have one or two pairs of eyes to use. But now with a team of hundreds of people working on a game with a dedicated QA department, surely someone on the team would have spotted and rectified the problems? We just tend to notice bugs and glitches more now than we used to.

Skyrim Bug.jpg

Lastly there is the issue of fixing the games after launch. It was much harder back in the good ole’ days as Jet Set Willy proved with its POKEs as you would have to break into the game-code yourself and manually change/insert the new lines of coding. It was a lot of work and each person would have to re-code the game themselves individually. Most of the time it was more trouble than it was worth, so we just played and put up with the bugs. Modern patches can be rolled out over the interwebs to millions of people around the world instantly, making the process a lot easier and more “acceptable” I guess. Speaking of patches, that leads me nicely into that irking I mentioned at the start…

So yeah, one of my most eagerly awaited games of the year was released a week or two ago. State of Decay 2. I did a quick first impressions where I looked at the first couple of hours of gameplay. I did mention the bugs, but at that stage I had not witnessed anything serious. I played the game over the weekend and did a more in-depth look at the game. I mentioned more of the bugs and glitches but I still didn’t let them get to me, I even said how I hope that Undead Labs will fix the problems…and they did…kind of.

SoD2 Post Edit

The image I used where the official State of Decay 2 Facebook page announced the patch was live was pretty innocent and not something to get annoyed about right? I mean, all they are doing is letting the fans know the patch is out. Except that was not their original announcement at all. Before the editing of that Facebook post, the announcement looked more like this…

SoD2 Original

I will never understand why at first people asked us to fix the game so we went to work and released this big juicy 20Gb of bug-fixed patch and now you guys are complaining over why the patch is 20GB smh.

Now is it just me or does that post not come across as a bit…well “bitchy”? When I first read it, I thought it was a joke, a bit of trolling by a 14 year old with nothing better to do – but no, this was from the official State of Decay 2 Facebook page, so this was put up by someone connected to the game and possibly the development team, a (supposedly) professional.

Well allow me to retort. You were asked to fix the game because it was clearly released unfinished. The bugs I encountered for my first impressions article were not that major, the ones I found when I played it over the weekend stood out more and I found even more bugs and glitches after I played it further and after I had written that second article too. I chose not to go back and edit my article to highlight more and more bugs as I felt it would be unfair on Undead Labs – but with that Facebook post up there that just flat out insults the fans? Well, you just done rattled my cage there.

How the fuck dare you have a go at the very people who are putting money in your pockets. The people who have been loyal to your game over the years, the ones who waited patiently since its announcement and even accepted the delay from last year, who put up with all the bugs, glitches and rough edges of the first game. The ones who believed that they would be getting a better and more polished game with the sequel as the development team should have learned from the previous experience. State of Decay 2 is a good game despite the numerous bugs…but to have the cheek to have a pop at the people who are supporting you is just insane.

You want to know what would’ve been a better response?

The patch for State of Decay 2 is now live. We at Undead Labs would like to thank the fans for their continued support and patience as we fix the bugs.

But no, you chose to insult us instead.

You really want to know why some people complained about a 20gb patch? Because State of Decay 2 as a game in its entirety is a relatively small game, a 20 gb patch would be sizable for a 65gb game – but State of Decay 2 is only 20.31gb. So yeah a 20gb patch for a game that itself is only a shade over 20gb is not so much a patch but more of a complete game overhaul. Its painfully clear that State of Decay 2 was released too early (despite already being delayed) and needed more time to fix the issues. Not only that, you had an open Beta test and invited the general public to take part to highlight problems…and yet the game was still released with dozens of easily noticeable bugs and you moan at the fans?

Then there is that little stinger at the end of the original comment, that “smh” bit. As the often used definition of smh is:

Acronym for ‘shake my head’ or ‘shaking my head.’ Usually used when someone finds something so stupid, no words can do it justice.

You are actually calling the people who paid money to play your game “stupid”? Fucking hell Undead Labs, do you want there to be an State of Decay 3?

But do you know what the icing on the cake is? There are still a lot of bugs and glitches even post 20gb patch. There are people posting screen shots and videos of numerous bugs and glitches on those social medias even AFTER the 20gb patch. Yeah they fixed some of the issues but not all of them, bearing in mind its a 20gb patch for a 20gb game and its still not fixed properly.

Its a damn good job they did edit the original patch announcement post, just imagine what it would be like if someone screen grabbed the original and featured it in an article and then tagged Undead Labs and State of Decay 2 when sharing it on social media?

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Is State Of Decay 2 Dead On Arrival?

Back in 2013 when Undead Labs released the first State Of Decay game, I was bored of the whole zombie survival genre. There were zombie games everywhere, even in games you think wouldn’t have them – I’m looking at you Red Dead Redemption. Don’t get me wrong, the Undead Nightmare DLC for Red Dead Redemption was amazing, but did anyone honestly think that the game needed zombies? Zombie games were everywhere and as I said – by 2013 I was just so utterly bored of those undead bastards. Then State of Decay was released and my brother kept hounding me to play it…and I really didn’t want to. But he was persistent and without giving too much away he just kept telling me how great the game was and so I reluctantly downloaded it and hated it. I sat there playing this abomination of a game for a while, running around and smacking zombies around the head with a piece of wood. It was tedious and I got rather angry with my sibling for convincing me to fork over my hard earned cash and quickly turned it off. The game was ugly, had numerous glitches and frame-rate issues.

State of Decay church

“Just get to the safe-house at the church” is what my brother told me. So I did, I gave State of Decay another go – hell I paid for the fucking thing so I may as well get something out of it right? All through my play time I just kept hearing my brother in the back of my head saying “get to the church, get to the church, get to the church” in a really annoying voice. Long story short, he was right as its when you do “get to the church” in State of Decay when the game really opens up. Character management, base building, scavenging, equipment creating and so much more are all unleashed onto you and what starts out as a pretty boring zombie game suddenly evolves into something totally different with a depth of gameplay I rarely see in big budget, AAA titles never mind a low budget indie game as State of Decay was. It went from being a game I detested to one of the best games I played last generation. I must have poured hundreds of hours into State of Decay on the 360 and then the Xbox One, I even played through it again before the release of the sequel on my Xbox One X. So when Undead Labs announced a sequel at E3 in 2016, I was ready with bankcard in hand and as soon as I could pre-order, I did. I even went for the Ultimate Edition which comes with some in-game items, and future DLC including a new map and new gameplay mode. But more importantly, it came with early access to State of Decay 2 which was available four days before it’s official release date of tomorrow. I did a very quick (and rough) first impressions when I played the game for a couple of hours and liked what I saw. But I wanted to do a proper write up and look at the game after I’d put more time into it as first impressions can change over time. So I’ve been playing State of Decay 2 over the weekend and?

Title.jpg

First thing I need to make clear is that this is still a low budget, indie game here not a big budget title and there are a few cracks. There are some issues with frame-rates, lag and other minor niggles but nothing game breaking at all. There was a patch released for the game which sorted out a lot of the bigger problems but a few do still remain.

The game starts with you choosing from three pairs of characters, each with their own skill sets and strengths. There’s a little blurb on their relationships and back stories but it really amounts to nothing as the individual stories are not important in the grand scheme,its really just background filler. After you choose your pair of characters, you are thrown into a linear tutorial that teaches you the bare basics of movement, combat and scavenging. For a seasoned State of Decay player, the tutorial is just insulting. Get to the end and you then can choose which of the three maps you start on. As far as I can tell, there is no major difference in the main story and the map/character selection is nothing more than just that, a map/character selection. But once you get passed all of that – that game starts proper and you are thrown into an open world extravaganza.

Right from the off, the game looks good. Okay so its not as graphically impressive as something like Assassin’s Creed: Origins but again, State of Decay 2 is low budget and in that regard it does look impressive. The world feels alive despite the fact you are trapped in a zombie apocalypse. There are little details like rats and lizards running around, rubbish strewn on the floor that make the world you are in seem lived in at some point. Many of the staples from the previous game return and have either been tweaked or overhauled to work better. The base building is back with several more options and multiple upgrades for your base. The character building plays out pretty much the same but with some new features. In State of Decay when you maxed out one of your character’s skills, you could chose a specialization and that was pretty much it. Now when you max out a skill, you can chose from several specializations each with different strengths and weaknesses and continue to level up that specialization further.

State of Decay 2 church

I mentioned in my first impressions article how I found myself pressing wrong buttons and not really getting on with the menu system. This is mainly due to coming directly from playing the original (a lot) and my being so used to that set up so that switching to the sequel and its tweaks did throw me for a while. But now I’ve spent more time with State of Decay 2, I’m finding my way around the menus and interface easier, its become second nature. Base building works like a dream with the new options as does managing your characters. You can switch between your survivors with ease, promote them if needed, check out their skills and stats and so much more. All of this helps create one of my favorite aspects of the game, the building of your community. Situations can change if you don’t keep your base well stocked with the essentials, lack of food can lead to your community’s morale dropping and even to depression. Some of your characters may clash and fight between themselves. Low building materials can mean you’ll see your base suffer damage and in need of repair. You need to keep an eye on everything and ensure you maintain your stocks at a level that keeps your base and residents happy. Then there is a flip side to, overstock with food (for example) and it can spoil if not used. There is a delicate balancing act going on among all the zombie slaughter which you need to keep an eye on to help your community grow at a steady rate.

As you build your base, you can and will encounter problems. A bigger base will attract zombies. If your base creates a a lot of noise and building a generator to give your base electricity will create the most noise then zombies will most definitely come a-knocking on your front door. This is a new feature were your base will get attacked by passing zombies. Thankfully you can keep an eye on just how much attention your base will attract on the base building screen. So its up to you, build a huge and impressive base with as many rooms and facilitates as you want but be under continual attack from zombies, or keep it much lower key and avoid all the hassle. But of course a smaller base will only attract smaller groups of survivors and you need as many survivors you can find to stay alive. Its more of that balancing act I mentioned before and really gives you a lot for freedom in just how you build your home and community.

State of Decay 2 menu

The main aim of the game is to survive. Gather resources, build up your base and community, fend off zombies. Its State of Decay with some tweaks and improvements…and I’m perfectly fine with that. Undead Labs have not messed with the winning formula too much. They have kept what worked with the original game and improved in the areas that needed it. If you played the original, you’ll find yourself right at home with this sequel. All the special zombies are back too, the screamers that stun the player and attract zombies, the bloater that explodes in a cloud of zombie gas that can poison you and those really annoying ferals that jump around erratically and leap on you from a distance…oh yeah, lets not forget those great hulking juggernaut zombies that take several dozen rounds of ammo to put down. But this sequel adds a new type of zombie to the mix, the blood plague zombie. These blood covered blighters can and will infect your survivors if they get in close enough, this leads to you contracting the blood plague and you’ll soon have to find a cure or your survivor will end up deader than a dead thing. The only way to really stop the blood plague is to destroy the plague hearts that will appear around the map – but there is twist as the more hearts you destroy, the stronger the next heart becomes. So things can get a little tough further down the line if you are not properly equipped…which is where the whole base management and equipment crafting comes in useful.

State of Decay 2 blood plague

The three maps are big, not the biggest maps I have seen in an open world game but they still have plenty to see and do in them. Put it this way, I have sunk around 20 odd hours into my single -player game (I also have a co-op game going with my brothers) and despite the many hours I have put in, I think I have only seen about one fifth of one of the maps…one of the maps – there’s still two more to explore after the one I’m currently on. Now I read a review that claimed they finished the game within 10 in-game days. I can not say how true this is as I’m only on day 5 and still have a long way to go. But I think this is due to the fact I am not rushing my way thorough the game (20+ hours and I’ve still not finished it) and if you are one to rush to the end, then you are really not playing the game right and will miss out on a lot of what it offers. This is a game where you really need to take your time and enjoy what is there to get the most out of it.

The environments themselves are varied between the three maps, I did start new games just to take a quick look at all three. There seems to be a lot more verticality over the previous game. There is more variety in the locales within each map, more places to discover. Though I have noticed a lot of the buildings have the same layouts as they did in State of Decay. Some of the houses are the same, the shops, gas stations, etc all seem to have the same basic layouts even if the graphics in them have been updated.

State of Decay 2 map

Of course I have to quickly cover the all new co-op mode in State of Decay 2. You can now team up with up to three friends and take on the zombie hordes online. Its damn good fun too with a decent team of players who know that they are doing. Good team work is the key to survival and just running around aimlessly is a surefire way to end up one of the undead. Gathering resources, building the home-base and keeping the community happy is easier with a few pals. One of the big things a lot of reviews are seeing as a negative is the the tethering, you see guest players are tethered to the host player and can not wander off doing their own thing and if you do wander off too far then you get a warning to head back, ignore the warning and you will be auto-snapped back to the host. Some reviewers have called this out as a negative, but I don’t see it that way at all. The range you can wander from the host is still pretty big to be honest and besides, this game is all about support and backing each other up…so why would you want to go off and do your own thing, that is what single player is for. Yeah the tethering works well and means you have to stay within range of the host, but still gives you enough freedom to do what needs to be done. I really have no problem with it at all.

Its not all good news though. As I mentioned earlier, there are still some glitches even post-patch. Strangely I found most of the glitches seem to happen in co-op mode over single player. For instance, I played games where doors were ‘open’ as shown in the game but actually closed and needed to be opened – if you get what I mean. Sometimes the locker you use to store your items is not there, rooms you build in your base may not show up on another player’s screen. There are still problems with frame-rates and lag issues – particularly when driving. Its still rough around the edges and I hope Undead Labs do fix the niggles in the future with another patch. Plus I don’t know if its just me, but I find the game far easier then its predecessor. In the original I used to dread alerting a zombie horde as they could very easily surround, overpower and kill you. In this the zombie hordes are nothing but a mild annoyance. Searching a building and making too much noise attracts zombies, this was a disaster in the first game as you could get rushed with multiple zombies all attacking you at once, yet here when you make noise and you’ll just get two or three zombies shamble over to you. Infestations in the first game were a real battle yet here they are a slight distraction. There seems to be fewer zombies around in general and they also seem less aggressive over the first game too. Maybe it is just me but I find State of Decay 2 less of a challenge. I think it needs a hardcore mode.

State of Decay 2 has had a few bad reviews that call the game out on its “game breaking” glitches. I believe some (if not all) of these reviews were done pre-patch and are not entirely fair now the game has been patched to a much more playable state.

State of Decay 2 foresome

Overall, State of Decay 2 is a cracker of a game. If you loved the first one then I highly recommend this as its everything a sequel should be. The core of what made the original great is still there and its been improved just enough. There are some new features that keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. Plus the co-op mode is just so much fun, one of the best co-op games released in years. Despite its niggles, State of Decay 2 is a solid and entertaining title. Yes the bugs and glitches are an annoyance but nothing that will ruin your enjoyment of the game. If Undead Labs could iron out the problems – this could be one of the best open world games around and most definitely the best zombie survival game yet.

State Of Decay 2: First Impressions

I very rarely pre-order games, I fail to see the point as they are often over priced and I prefer to just wait a while for the hype to die down and get the game at a lower price later. However, there is one game I’ve been looking forward to since it was first announced a couple of years back that I just had to pre-order. State Of Decay 2. Thankfully State Of Decay 2 was being offered at a low price at launch anyway, much like the previous game as it was a low budget/indie game. Plus the fact that I’ve gone for the Ultimate Edition and one of the bonuses was that you get to play the game four days early too…so I had to jump on this one.

I thought I’d just play the game and offer my first impressions as I play. But before I get to that, I just want to quickly cover what State Of Decay is for those not in the know.

The Original

State of Decay

Developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 and Windows. State Of Decay is a zombie survival horror/action game that has a hell of a lot of enjoyment hidden within its basic premise. You’ve played zombie survival games before…but not like this. If there is one thing that amazed me about the game at the time is just how much it has packed into it considering it was originally an Xbox Live Arcade game, which itself was a platform Microsoft used for smaller downloadable games from both major publishers and independent game developers.

Not that I’m saying that Xbox Live Arcade games were poor as they often had plenty of great hidden gems – but more a case of the games the platform offered were just smaller, rougher games over the big AAA titles that were being released by bigger studios. State Of Decay broke the mold – it was a big (for an indie game) open world marvel that really pushed indie games to the limit. Just as a quick visual example – CastleStorm was a game released on the Xbox Live Arcade and it looked like this…

CastleStorm

The game itself is pretty fun to play, but its a simple 2D action game and there were a lot of them on Xbox Live Arcade. Then State Of Decay, released the same year looked like this…

State of Decay action

State Of Decay actually starts pretty slowly and dare I even say, its rather dull really. For the first several minutes of the game, you are just walking around hitting zombies with a stick. Then you get to meet some survivors hiding away in a ranger station and the elements of scouting locations and searching buildings for weapons and supplies is introduced. This is followed by a mission where you rescue a fellow survivor who then joins your team. The game really starts to open up as you make your way to the first safe-house in the game and then the whole base building element is introduced.

In short, State Of Decay is an utterly engrossing game that has a hell of a lot of gameplay when you really get into it. Individual characters have specific skills and traits that can help grow your community through the game. Base skills level up the more you use them, run a lot and your cardio increases, use guns and your firearms skill will improve, fight zombies using blunt, sharp, heavy weapons to increase your skills with these. You slowly but surely begin to build stronger and stronger characters the more you use them…you grow attached to them too and fight hard to ensure they survive as when a character dies in State Of Decay, they stay dead – there’s no checkpoint saves, no reviving. When you lose one of your best, leveled up members of the community you have built up over several hours of gameplay…they are gone for good. Its this element that really makes you care for your characters, do you send out a lesser character to clear out a zombie infestation and just hope they can handle it or do you risk one of your better peeps who have the skills to fight off a zombie horde but could die losing all the work you have put into them?

State of Decay action 2

Your base can be uniquely created with specific rooms such as a bedroom for your survivors to sleep in, a library where you can learn new skills, a garden so you can grow your own food and a kitchen to cook it in. How about building a workshop so you can maintain your cars and even build weapons, plus several other rooms to build. Some rooms work in conjunction with others; build a library and a workshop to unlock more advanced weapons and upgrades for example. Each room can be upgraded and some will require a specialist to get the most of of them. The base building is brilliant and adds a lot of depth and strategy to the game as you safe-house only has limited space so you have to pick and chose what to build. You can’t have everything all at once. You have to balance your resources such as building materials, ammo, food and fuel to get the most of your you continuity along with dealing with morale issues and other problems. And I use the word ‘continuity’ because that’s exactly what you end up building, a continuity of survivors all fighting to stay alive.

The game has driving, shooting, fighting, base building, scavenging and so much more. All wrapped up in a beautiful little indie package that really has the gameplay value of a title made by a worldwide famous software house that knocks out AAA titles regularly. In fact, State Of Decay puts a lot of big budget, massive releases to shame.

State of Decay stats

Not that the game doesn’t have its problems as it does. The graphics are okay at best, there are frame-rate issues and I’m about to use a word I desist using…overall the game’s look and style is very ‘janky’. There are clipping problems, zombies will sometimes just appear from nowhere or walk through walls of a building, etc. There are problems but they’re also mostly forgivable given the low budget and indie team that made it. The game is rough around the edges but still one of the finest zombie survival games I have ever played. In fact I’m going to say it – State Of Decay is THE best zombie survival game I have played so far.

But I’m not here to drone on about the first game. I put this article together to take a look at the sequel. So lets get into it. Just as a quickie – I am going into this one blind, I’ve not read about the story, I don’t know any of the characters and I have avoided looking at any gameplay footage and reviews – all I have seen of the game was the E3 reveal trailer from 2016. I have not played the game yet and I really am just going to just play a few hours and give my first impressions.

So what follows is going to be as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. There could be spoilers ahead as I write up my experience so there’s a pre-warning for you there.

The Sequel

I’ve waited two years to get my hands on this one and now I finally have it four days early thanks to the Ultimate Edition. I’ve been looking forward to this all damn day, I even booked the weekend off work so I could get some serious State Of Decay 2 playing done. So lets crack on…

I suppose the first thing to do is check out the co-op mode, yes State of Decay 2 features a co-op option where you and three friends can fight of zombies together. I have managed to get my bother to join in for this one so lets bash some undead.

Well right of the bat, it looks ten times better than the previous game. Much more colour and detail. Looks like I’ll have to play through the tutorial before I can do co-op though. Just have to make my way to a camp to find help, bludgeoning a few zombies along the way. All good so far made it through the tutorial and now I get to chose which one of the three maps I want to start on. And off we go, got a car and now just driving off over the horizon as the title appears.

Well the car has run out of gas, that’s another new feature in the sequel – you now have to worry about gas consumption. Now the game starts proper and I’ve teamed up with my brother for some co-op. The map is really well detailed, just saw a lizard run across my path on the way to the first safe house. The game does look really nice, not exactly GTA V level of detail but a massive step up from the first game. The menu seems a bit cumbersome compared to the original, but I think I must need to get used to it. The same basics are there such as the base building and resource management, etc but everything is different enough to slightly confuse me after playing State of Decay so damn much, as I say, its just a case of getting used to the new interface. The controls have been slightly tweaked to over the first game and I keep pressing the wrong buttons. But managed to make it to the first safe-house. Its all very familiar and yet new at the same time. Looks like we have our first mission to so some surveying.

And off we go out to venture into the unknown for the first time. Really loving the graphics so far and the views are really quite lovely to look at too. There is a tethering system in place so you can’t wonder off to different areas of the map – that’s a bit disappointing but the range you are tethered to each other is still pretty large and I’m not sure if you really want to be leaving your companions behind anyway as this is the kind of game where you need to stick together. But I’m able to go off and explore one area and numerous buildings while my brother does the same elsewhere. The tethering is not too restrictive to be fair. Well after a few diversions and a bit of exploring, we finally made it to the surveying spot, pretty much the same as the original game. Look around and reveal locales, searchable buildings, vehicles and special zombies.

Back home after a spot of scavenging and can now build a medical bay at the base. Just been introduced to a neighbour and it gives you the option of working with him or not. Could prove interesting further in the story, stay friendly with neighbours and build up some trust…or don’t and who knows what they may do in the future. Yeah this is pretty much what I was expecting so far – State of Decay with a tone of refinements. The character development is still there, the base building is too. So it looks like building a community from the first game is back but with several more options to explore and play around with.

The characters themselves feel much more emotive and animated. The combat seems to be the same as before but with a load of new animations and gruesome finishing moves. This is exactly what I wanted from a State of Decay sequel. They haven’t messed with the winning formula too much and improved on the areas that needed improving. I’ve have only just scratched the surface on this one, done a few story missions, need to get to grips with the new interface and menu system. But overall I’m well pleased. It’s now almost 3 AM and probably a good time to get some sleep. I can definitely see myself getting lost in this game just as I did with the original – I must have sank hundreds of hours into that on the 360 and then again on the Xbox One. This was just a little taster of what the game has to offer in the opening couple of hours, I’m sure there is so much more to see and do and I’m really looking forward to it too.

Just as a quick aside. I’ve not read any reviews of the game myself, but I do know that its getting a bit if a bad rep for bugs and glitches. I have to say that me and my brother never really experienced any on the couple of hours we played. There was one instance of a frame-rate drop for a couple of seconds and that was all. Nothing worth worrying about anyway.

Yup, really happy with this one and I may do a more in-depth and proper look at the game later. I’ll be playing it a lot more over the next few days and I think the co-op will be a damn good laugh too. Well done Undead Labs, I’m well happy with the game so far.

Three Maps For State Of Decay 2… And Maybe More Later?

2013s State of Decay from developer Undead Labs was an unexpected hit. To be honest, I was bored of the whole zombie sub-genre of gaming as zombie fatigue began to set in, the undead blighters were everywhere. But it was State of Decay that provided the shot in the arm I needed. A great mix of action, crafting, base management, RPG and open world exploration. The game had its problems in terms of frame-rates and minor bugs – but what was there was an amazing experience to be found.

When Undead Labs officially announced State of Decay 2 last year, the palms of my hands began to sweat in anticipation and I have been eagerly trying to soak up any information on the sequel like a thirsty sponge. It all began with the teaser trailer shown at E3 in 2016.

While Undead Labs have remained tight-lipped on a lot of the details for State of Decay 2, they have been slowly teasing us with concept art and screen shots over the last few months while they are hard at work polishing and perfecting the sequel to one of the best zombie survival games made so far.

But in a recent post on the Undead Labs official blog, the developers have spilt the beans on what we can expect to see in terms of maps for State of Decay 2. If you were expecting a map that could rival the first game – then you are in for a lot more then you bargained for as State of Decay 2 will feature three maps and each of those maps will be (at least) the size of the map from the original game.

We are launching with THREE maps. Each roughly the size of the original. You should expect to see slightly different environments, definitely different landmarks and locations, different layouts lending themselves to different strategies, unique home sites, and even different mission types.

Sounds bloody great. The map of the original was not really the biggest or most detailed open world map ever created, but it was damn good fun to explore as you learned your way around in search of resources to keep your community of survivors alive and even searched for new places to set up a home-base.

But why are we getting three maps in State of Decay 2?

Well, primarily, because it makes the game more fun. It really feels like you’re moving from one small town to another, and creates a tremendous sense of immersion. And perhaps counter-intuitively, it makes the world feel even bigger. You know how on one map (even one three times the size as the original game’s) the longer you play, the more you start feeling deju vu with every mission? That’s less of an issue with separate maps.

If you played the original State of Decay, then you’d know how important scavenging for items and searching for fellow survivors was. So what happens to all of what we have built up in one map if/when we move to another?

The intent is for us to be able to take all of our people, and everything in our supply lockers and rucks. We’ll have all the vehicles parked in our home site parking spaces, along with whatever’s stored in the trunks. We’re also going to get at least a partial refund on what we sunk into building our facilities.

So any and everything you have striven and risked your life for in one map will be carried over to the next one – creating a seamless transition and allowing you to go from map to map without loosing all of your prized possessions or characters you have grown an affinity with.

I also must point out that the blog states they will be ‘launching’ with three maps. So does this mean there will be more than three maps post-launch possibly offered via DLC? This is sounding better and better.

Undead Labs have promised that more details on State of Decay 2 will be revealed in June at E3 this year, including a release date and gameplay footage.